July 1, 2016

Partly sunny

‘Face’ of health care debate hospitalized


MEDINA — Natoma Canfield is living out her health care fears.

The Medina Township resident, who was brought into the health care limelight when her letter was read during a White House press briefing last week, is in Medina Hospital undergoing a series of tests to see what caused her to become faint at work on Sunday.

In a December letter to President Barack Obama, Canfield, 50, who is a cancer survivor and self-employed, detailed her fears about living without health coverage.

“I didn’t realize it would be sooner rather than later,” Canfield said Thursday from her hospital room.

She said she believes in health care reform just as much she did a week ago, or in December when she wrote the letter.

“This is bigger than me,” she said.

President Obama is expected to speak about health care in Strongsville on Monday, and Canfield said his staff has asked her to introduce him. She said her sister will do it if she’s too sick to go.

“It’s always good to have a Plan B,” she said.

But Canfield said her only plan for the next few days is to concentrate on her health.

“My focus is hearing what the diagnosis is and then making battle plans accordingly,” she said.

On Sunday, Canfield was at a Seville home where she occasionally works as a cleaning woman and helps take care of farm animals. She said she was helping a cow in labor into a barn, and began to become short of breath.

“I’m thinking, ‘I don’t feel good,’ and all of a sudden things went black and gray,” she said.

She said she was taken to Lodi Community Hospital and then transferred to Medina Hospital. She hasn’t been diagnosed yet, but doctors have been performing tests on her bone marrow.

“They are using the ‘leukemia’ word a lot,” she said.

Canfield was diagnosed with carcinoma about 16 years ago, but has been cancer free for 11 years.

In her letter to Obama, Canfield wrote she paid $6,075 in insurance premiums in 2009. She said the premium was expected to rise to $8,496 in 2010.

“I need your health reform bill to help me. I simply can no longer afford to pay for my health care costs. Thanks to this incredible premium increase demanded by my insurance company, January will be my last month of insurance,” Canfield’s letter said.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs read the letter at a press briefing on March 4. Obama also read it at meetings he and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius had with insurance companies.

“They’ve called me the face of health care,” Canfield said from her hospital bed.

She said she’s received a wave of e-mails and letters from people like herself who do not have insurance.

“These are just hard-working, everyday people that aren’t counted as much because they’re too busy working to survive,” she said.

She said an Akron company is helping her take care of the administrative side of her medical problems. She received a letter from Lynette Catalanotto, president of Executive Medical Consultants in Akron, offering her free membership to their medical resolution service.

Catalanotto said Thursday the company will look at Canfield’s medical bills, even old ones, to ensure she is not charged incorrectly. But, she said, the test now is helping Canfield find programs to pay for bills incurred since dropping her insurance.

“Now she doesn’t have insurance. The challenge is on. And I’m ready to help her,” she said.

Contact Maria Kacik at (330) 721-4049 or mkacik@medina-gazette.com.